* Dec same-store sales up 2.8 pct based on 32 retailers
* December performance strongest since April 2008
* 2009 same-store sales down 2 pct, weakest on record
* Sees 2010 same-store sales up 3-3.5 pct, best since 2006
* Sees January same-store sales flat to up 1 pct
By Nicole Maestri
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 7 (Reuters) - U.S. retail chain store sales notched their worst performance on record in 2009, but ended the year on a strong note and should rebound this year, the International Council of Shopping Centers Inc said.
The trade organization said on Thursday that December same-store sales rose 2.8 percent, based on its tally of 32 retailers. That was the strongest monthly performance of 2009, and the best showing since April of 2008, the group reported.
“I describe it as a nice finish to the holiday season,” said Michael Niemira, the ICSC’s chief economist. “I think the (sales) improvement really echoes the improvement in the underlying economy... We’ve seen less deterioration in the labor market on the employment front.”
Retailers ranging from Macy’s Inc (M.N) and Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) to Aeropostale Inc ARO.N raised their earnings outlooks on Thursday, after reporting better-than-expected December sales. [ID:nN07165754]
Niemira said 2009 chain store sales fell 2 percent, the weakest performance on record. He said 2010 could start off slowly, with January same-store sales forecast to be flat to up 1 percent.
But Niemira expects there to be a rebound in 2010, with sales for the calendar year rising 3 percent to 3.5 percent, the strongest showing since sales rose 4.8 percent in 2006.
“As the year progresses, I think you’ll see the consumer stepping up their spending,” he said. (Reporting by Nicole Maestri; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)